Letter to the Editor: The City’s Public Portal Contains Myriad Letters Against Electing Our Mayor

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There has been very limited public discussion on the charter amendment for electing the mayor which will be voted upon in the not-so-distant future. Where is the give and take, the back-and-forth discussions that are so valuable when looking into such a major change?

Most of the discussion items have not been bantered back and forth orally, but in writing. Some of that written discussion has been in the newspapers as well as communication which has been put on the Public Portal of Newport Beach.

People can submit comments on Council agenda items before a meeting, and the City Clerk posts them there. The following remarks made in opposition to the Charter Amendment set before the people on October 26 and passed that evening by Council members, were displayed on the Portal under “arguments against.”

“We are extremely opposed to this proposal and the strong-arming and overreaching it reveals.”

“I oppose using taxpayer money for a special election for mayor.”

“When we have City Council members that ‘team up’ together to represent special interests, the last thing we need is a Mayor who is bought and sold to serve those interests.”

“The language the Council is being asked to consider adding to a future ballot is very unlikely to be that which would result from a more thoroughly and openly debated consideration of the matter.”

“This particular proposal of calling an election for a proposed charter amendment contains many quite arbitrary and poorly thought out provisions. One of the most arbitrary and disruptive of those is the mandate it would create to reduce the number of council districts from seven to six.”

“Reducing the number of council districts in essence creates a less democratic government by diluting the votes of the citizens in each district.”

“What a waste of time and city resources to use this process with a special election”

“It would mean that any newcomer to Newport Beach could simply arrive for the purpose of running for and possibly becoming Mayor, without any prior experience or knowledge of our city.”

“I urge you to please not give way to such a blatant attempt to seize the City Council’s power and monopolize it in a purely self-serving move.”

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

“If anyone tries to rush you through something, it is most likely not to your advantage.”

“I’m for waiting until our scheduled election in 2022 for voting on the election mayor issue. I believe the money could be spent more wisely like helping the homeless.”

“Such a serious alteration to our political system should be well considered and be a movement by the citizens, not a movement of the politically connected.”

There are approximately 320 pages of letters from writers who are speaking for and against the election of the mayor. First of all, the large number of letters shows what an important issue this is to the city of Newport Beach. If you go to that public website you will find approximately the same number of letters for and against the proposal. (See website https://ecms.newportbeachca.gov/Web/welcome.aspx.) Go to item #14 and section 2 and 3 to find correspondence from those who support and oppose the Amendment. Go to item #1 as well to read remarks by our city sage, Jim Mosher, whose knowledge and helpfulness are greatly respected by members of the community. There is also a video that the City makes available to citizens.

This was the first time that I became aware of this service and I spent several hours scanning through the letters as I would hope that the Council does. I did not read every  line of every letter but observed that the vast majority of them were very short, often consisting of a few sentences or a paragraph.

Here are some other general observations that I made. First of all, I must say that I concur with Council Member Diane Dixon who, at the beginning of her prepared speech after public comments, observed that the “support” letters are basically a couple of formulaic letters sent over and over, while the written letters in opposition, for the most part, are thoughtfully written letters, many which contain deep knowledge of the subject matter (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6Gc85Hs-Mg&t=14000s).

As previously noted from both camps, the majority of the letters are brief. I also found that many of the letters in the support group used two or three formulaic structures. The most popular letter formula began, “I agree with the letters to the editor…” of which there were over 25 copies. There was also a pre-printed petition used by approximately 25 correspondents, and the final batch was a number of letters written in very large print that took up at least three times as much space as an ordinary written letter.

In the letters that were in opposition to electing a mayor, the very last submission  consisted of 6 1/2 single spaced pages of a list of community members who are opposed to the Amendment. While a majority of the letters were short (as noted above), there were also over a dozen letters that were thoughtfully long written in opposition. Thus the number of approximately 160 separate letters from each side is not accurate.

One final observation came as a surprise to me and should not be taken for granted concerning any correspondence on the Public Portal. You do not have to be a resident of Newport Beach to have your correspondence displayed. I found this out when I posed the question to the young lady who puts the Portal together. I wondered how the City could keep track of the writers and how they knew which of them were residents of the City because only some of the people put their addresses on their letters, but a majority does not. The fact that residents from other cities can make their verbal and written views known is a factor which should be taken into consideration when considering important issues such as a change in the structure of City Government.

Lynn Lorenz / Newport Beach

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